Can we be 'Tunisia strong'?
December 21st, 2012
05:30 PM ET

Can we be 'Tunisia strong'?

By Mabrouka M’Barek, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mabrouka M’Barek is a Tunisia Constituent Assembly member. The views expressed are the author’s own.

I will always remember how angry I felt two years ago when, comfortably seated at my home in Vermont, I began to read leaked diplomatic cables from Tunisia. The cables described in great detail the alleged greed of the ruling dictator’s family. One of the posts, for example, related to former U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec, who according to a cable was invited by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s son-in-law, Sakher El-Materi, to his home for an extravagant dinner (with ice cream flown in from France).

Every Tunisian who read the leaked document was faced with the bitter truth about the Ben Ali regime, and, after young fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself two years ago, resentment over political and economic marginalization turned to rage, ultimately sparking the Arab Spring.

Sitting in Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly today, along with 216 other elected members, it is time to carry on the revolution and honor Bouazizi’s sacrifice by writing a constitution that will protect future generations of Tunisians from the humiliation and profound economic inequality endured under the Ben Ali regime. True, the writing of the constitution is taking time because of the desire for consensus. But Tunisia is facing urgent challenges that require immediate action: economic stagnation, unemployment and shortages of basic household staples.

The international community was swift to offer the Tunisian government an impressive package of assistance in the hopes of improving transparency, good governance and creating jobs. Unfortunately, the measures prescribed by the World Bank came with conditions whose primary goal felt aimed at turning Tunisia into a free trade zone. In rushing to propose a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) agreement, the World Bank and the European Union fail to accept that Tunisia’s agricultural sector cannot compete against highly subsidized European products, just as its service and industry sectors cannot compete against high-tech multinational companies.

Moreover, the massive aid package offered through the World Bank seems disproportionate. The proposed aid would increase Tunisia’s external debt, and will adversely impact its credit rating. A new constitution that consecrates human values, an independent judiciary, unfettered civil society, the rule of law, and open government is not enough if we fail to feed our people.

The Tunisian revolution was not simply about human rights – it was also a wakeup call and a warning over greed. Bouazizi’s sacrifice marked the beginning of the kind of global movement that believes that policies need to put people first, and that everyone deserves access to adequate and nutritious food, health care and education without having to rely on a global economy that is deep in crisis.

It is particularly important to act now, and with the same community spirit that Vermonters showed after Hurricane Irene. Back then, Vermonters launched the campaign, “I am Vermont Strong,” putting people first and relying on communities to strengthen local businesses. As James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers’ Center, put it: “[S]tronger communities means communities where we no longer have policies that leave so many people vulnerable or threaten the livability of the planet. Even after we recover from Irene, we will still face an ongoing crisis.”

It is not too late for Tunisians to react, stand up and follow Vermont’s lead by asserting that we are “Tunisia Strong.”

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. deniz boro

    Younger states have a tendency to give out a transparent, clear and easily understandable display to the layman. That is because they did not have the time to build up the complicated and interlocking and interacting mechanisms necessary for a smooth running mechanizm that keep the commoners happyly ignorent. Hence trivial uprisals and disturbing oppositions by people who happen to read almost anarchist media may come up in the way of true democratic bliss.

    The art in prepairing a bechamel sauce is to brown the floor evenly in real butter. It takes time to cook it to the rigt degree. Tan you ave to take yur time to add the flavour of your choice as a liquid. Vegetable stock, meet broth or milk.

    Cooking the bechamel is the basic and simplest way in cooking up any sauce.

    December 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  2. deniz boro

    Hence you may look at new states as basic stocks.

    December 21, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Reply
  3. deniz boro

    I must also comment on the tomato sauce or tomato paste that the Mediteranians cannot do without. Like the nature of most hot-blooded Mediterenian people the mediterenian cuisine requires color....Mostly coming from a form of cooked, sliced, pasted or squized tomatos or their hotter alternatives of peppers...Unlike the white creamy and rather rich but colorless sauces of the Northern Europe.
    Well, people eat what they get from the land. The people of the land represent the geography and nature they grow up in. And Thyme and lamb meat can be so different from milk pig served with turnips.

    December 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Reply
  4. Mostfa Fayache

    ♛ ☪ “ T U N I S I A ” ☪ ♛

    l=☞ 彡 « ‘ YES ! WE CAN BE ’ » 彡 ☜=l

    December 23, 2012 at 1:30 am | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Tunisia should emerge better than the other countries mired in the messy reality of politic change the Arab Spring has brought. It is more prosperous than its neighbours and has strong trade links with Europe. Agriculture employs a large part of the workforce, and dates and olives are cultivated in the drier areas. However, unemployment is chronic in some regions. Tourism, a key sector of the economy, hasn't recovered from last year's turmoil and some Tunisians are worried about the growing influence of ultra-conservative Islamists after Ben Ali's fall.

    December 27, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
  6. deniz boro

    Arab Spring is turning out to be the second worst case scenerio of the recent history. The first one was the Gulf War Series.
    You plant seeds where they can take root and flourish...Otherwise you provide them nourishment and water.
    One just should not plant seed and than leave them alone.
    This is no different than planting the seeds of a child and than riding out to the sunset.
    One should take the responsibility of the action he/she started.

    December 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Reply

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